Anyone who has seen the footage of George Floyd’s treatment by officers from Minneapolis Police will have been appalled by what they saw. There can be no doubt that his death was caused by police action and it is difficult to see how their prolonged use of extreme force can be justified.
George Floyd becomes the latest in a long line of unarmed black people who have died at the hands of white police officers in the USA. It is right that the officers responsible for each of these deaths should answer for their actions in a court of law, but this is not enough. These deaths cannot simply be attributed to isolated cases of wrongdoing by individual officers. They point to a much deeper problem of institutional racism that cannot be ignored.
The phrase “Black Lives Matter” is more than just a slogan. It is part of a much bigger truth that we are all equal in value as human beings and we are all entitled to be treated equally by those in authority over us.
I commend the courage and dignity of George Floyd’s family in calling on those who want to protest against his killing to do so peacefully. I support the right of citizens in the USA or anywhere else to take part in peaceful protests. I deplore the actions of police forces in several American towns and cities who have used armed force to break up peaceful demonstrations. I also deplore the actions of a small number of people who have attached themselves to these demonstrations for the sole purpose of inciting violence, in direct contradiction of the wishes of George Floyd’s family.
In particular I deplore the double standards of a President who publicly applauded mobs of heavily armed people who took part in illegal demonstrations against legislation designed to save lives during the coronavirus pandemic, and who now threatens to use military force against unarmed and peaceful protesters whose only wish is that black people and white people should have equal protection in the eyes of the law.
It is not acceptable for the United Kingdom to continue to export riot control weapons such as tear gas and rubber bullets to the USA when they are clearly being used to inflict violence on unarmed and non-violent civilians. I am supporting cross party moves to call for an immediate ban on these exports.
I am grateful to the large number of constituents who have emailed me about this, all of whom will receive an individual reply.